Nathaniel Hawthorne: American Romanticism and Transcendentalism An Introduction to TheScarlet Letter
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Hawthorne was born on July 4th, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts • Father: Nathaniel Hathorne Sr. was a sea captain. • Mother: Elizabeth Clarke Manning was a descendent of blacksmiths
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College • After his graduation he turned to writing. • He wrote several successful short stories which were collected in Twice-Told Tales (1837).
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Following university, Hawthorne returned to Salem where he met Sophia Peabody. • After a five year engagement*, they were married in 1842.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Unable to support his new family by writing, in 1846 Hawthorne accepted a political appointment to the Salem Custom House as Surveyor of the Port.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • This bureaucratic position stunted Hawthorne's creativity. • A change in administration, however, led to his termination in 1849. • Hawthorne's mother died at the same time.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Suffering these losses, Hawthorne left Salem, which he called "that abominable city," saying that he now had no reason to remain. • He would never again return.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Some critics have suggested that the loss of both his position and mother provided the creative impetus to write The Scarlet Letter (1850).
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Hawthorne's connection to Salem haunted him. • His great-grandfather John Hathorne was the chief-interrogator of the "Salem Witches."
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • The story that Hawthorne added the "w" to his name to distance himself from his Hathorne ancestors has no clear evidence to support it.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • In 1830, however, he published "The Hollow of the Three Hills," under the name of Nathaniel Hathorne. • After this date his name appears as Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne Other Published works: • Twice-Told Tales, The House of the Seven Gables, The Mable Faun, Our Old Home, and children's books A Wonder Book, and Tanglewood Tales.
The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne • Nathaniel Hawthorne died on May 18, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. • He is credited with writing the first truly American novel: The Scarlet Letter.
Influences upon Hawthorne's Work Marriage • Sophia desired to paint, write, and pursue a profession • She was limited by social constraints and motherhood
Influences upon Hawthorne's Work • Female characters are often portrayed as sympathetic • Idea of "Female Purity" • Influence of Puritan heritage
Influences upon Hawthorne's Work Puritan New England • Many works are set in New England • Puritan belief in an "active evil" (Devil) • Salem communities are often viewed as hypocritical – Salem Witch Trials
Literary Themes • Alienation – a character is isolated due to self-cause or societal-cause • Guilt vs. Innocence – a character's sense of guilt caused by Puritanical values/heritage
Literary Themes • Individual vs. Society • Self-reliance vs. Accommodation • Hypocrisy vs. Integrity • Fate vs. Free Will • Unconventional Gender Roles • Impossibility of Human Perfection
Imagery • Hawthorne makes use of the following patterns of images: • Light vs. Dark • Natural vs. Unnatural • Sunshine vs. Firelight or Moonlight and Reflections
Romantic/Gothic Motifs • Fantasies • Dreams • Reveries • Open-ended endings and unanswered questions – the open-ended possibilities of idealistic romance
Hawthorne's Views of Romanticism and Transcendentalism • Hawthorne did not conform to the Romantic focus on the emotions and abandonment of reason. • Hawthorne strove to create a balance between "head and heart."
Hawthorne's Views of Romanticism and Transcendentalism • Hawthorne believed that human fulfillment was achieved through a balance between mind, reason, heart, spirit, will, and imagination.
Hawthorne's Views of Romanticism and Transcendentalism • Hawthorne's balanced approach placed him in opposition to Transcendentalists like Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow.
Clash with Transcendentalism • Hawthorne saw potential problems with Emerson's idea of self-reliance. • Self-reliance can lead to excessive pride. • Hawthorne believed in determinism, or natural order.
Clash with Transcendentalism • Transcendentalists were overwhelmingly abolitionists – Hawthorne wasn't entirely sure of his position. • He questioned the motives and principles of the Northern authorities.
Clash with Transcendentalism • This point of contention was publicized in a series of articles by Hawthorne published in the journal The Atlantic, which was founded by Emerson and Longfellow.
Clash with Transcendentalism • The editorial staff of The Atlantic deleted large portions of Hawthorne's articles which contained ideas that disagreed with the abolitionist beliefs of the founders of the journal.
Clash with Transcendentalism • Hawthorne also added sketches throughout his edited published articles, written from the perspective of a "dimwitted editor"to show the hypocritical nature of his transcendentalist editors.
Clash with Transcendentalism Hawthorne’s Response: "What a terrible thing it is to try to let off a little bit of truth into this miserable humbug of a world!"
Clash with Transcendentalism In place of an unflattering description of President Lincoln that the editors deleted, he wrote: "We are compelled to omit two or three pages, in which the author describes the interview, and gives his idea of the personal appearance and deportment of the President. The sketch appears to have been written in a benign spirit, and perhaps conveys a not inaccurate impression of its august subject; but it lacks reverence."
Clash with Transcendentalism In place of another deleted section he wrote: "We do not thoroughly comprehend the author's drift in the foregoing paragraph, but are inclined to think its tone reprehensible, and its tendency impolitic in the present stage of our national difficulties."
European Romance vs.The American Novel • Hawthorne struggled against the European model of the Romance. • Through The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne developed the first truly American Novel.
The European Romance • The European Romance romanticized a rich past and historic culture. • It involved archetypal adventures. • It was escapist: a means of escaping the here and now.
The European Romance Classical Romance Characteristics: • Lovers who remain true to each other, while the woman's chastity is preserved • An intricate plot, including stories within stories • Exciting and unexpected chance events
The European Romance Classical Romance Characteristics: • Travel to faraway settings • Hidden and mistaken identity • Written in an elaborate and elegant style
European Romance vs. The American Novel • America, however, had no rich culture or ancient history to draw from. • It was primarily concerned with the here and now, and how to perfect it.
European Romance vs. The American Novel • While maintaining the elements of the European Romance, Hawthorne shifted the American novel's focus to the present.
The American Novel • Hawthorne's novel was not a means of escape, but rather a means to examine society and life. • His novel invited criticism of the worlds he reflected – Puritanism.
The American Novel • Where Romance incorporated the Gothic elements of crime, religion, ghosts, etc. as the focus of the story, Hawthorne used these elements as a means to support his story.
Hawthorne's Novel "When a writer calls his work a romance, he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a novel."
Hawthorne's Novel • Hawthorne's novel found relevance as more than mere entertainment, but as something more prophetic and integral to the American identity.